In Bolivia, the funny presidential campaign

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In the midst of a pandemic, Bolivia is experiencing a campaign for the presidential election, to say the least atypical: without a meeting, with reduced proposals, but endless accusations and denunciations between the interim government and the former left-wing president Evo Morales, who does not is however not a candidate.

With just over a month before the October 18 election, the government of interim conservative president Jeanine Añez is firing red bullets on the former head of state who fled the country after a controversial vote at the end of 2019 for a fourth mandate.

Criminal complaint for alleged relations with minors, denunciation before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity due to road blockages organized by its supporters in the midst of a pandemic: for weeks, the power has not stopped target the former president.

Since his exile in Argentina, Evo Morales (head of state between 2006 and 2019) has denounced a “campaign of defamation” and his party, the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), of maneuvers with “electoral goals”.

The response was not long in coming: the former president accused the government of having paid “millions of dollars in public money” to an American company to lobby Washington against it and “Spreading false news and lies”.

He also asked the prosecution to open an investigation into alleged embezzlement during the management of the pandemic by the government, which he accuses of being at the origin of “an economic, health and humanitarian disaster”.

In this country of 11 million inhabitants, nearly 120,000 people have been infected more than 5,000 have died.

“This dirty war is part of the strategy of the parties, according to their position in the polls”, analysis for AFP the professor of political science, Carlos Cordero, “it is true that the one who is fully committed to it is the president Añez ”.

The October general elections, postponed three times due to the pandemic, will de facto end the interim government led by the former right-wing senator, in power since the resignation of Mr. Morales in November 2019, dropped by the police and army face the anger of the streets.

Fragmented opposition

Believing that these successive postponements were only intended to weaken the MAS candidate, Luis Arce, and to keep the interim government in place, supporters of Evo Morales blocked the roads for ten days in August, in full pandemic.

According to the latest polls, the dolphin of Mr. Morales is tied in the first round with the former center-right president Carlos Mesa (23%), far ahead of Jeanine Añez (12%).

But the pandemic has also changed the way we campaign: more public meetings, more rallies or demonstrations as before. We now have to convince voters via social networks in a country where internet coverage remains low.

Even if the restrictions to fight against Covid-19 have been relaxed, “the whole electoral process is marked by the pandemic”, summarizes political scientist Carlos Borth.

In Bolivia, the occupation of the streets by militants was until then a means of demonstrating its political force. And the more people a candidate mobilized in the street, the closer he got to the Palacio Quemado, the presidential palace.

Today, applicants are limited to sending out press releases, giving press conferences online and posting videos on social media.

“The level of proposals will drop. In fact, it has already fallen, ”notes Mr. Borth, who observes that the electoral programs boil down to generalities.

He also noted that the anti-Evo Morales vote was fragmented, while the union of the opposition had facilitated the resignation of the former head of state: “The (anti-Evo) forces are clearly in the process of to disperse ”.

Besides Jeanine Añez and Carlos Mesa, other right-wing candidates will face Luis Arce, including regional leader Luis Fernando Camacho, ex-president Jorge Quiroga and evangelical pastor of Korean origin Chi Hyung Chung.

And they do not hesitate to criticize each other: Ms. Añez believes that Carlos Mesa lacks character, while the latter accuses him of using public money to campaign …

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